Film Review – WESTBOUND (1959)

Related imageWESTBOUND (USA, 1959) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros.; Production Company: Warner Bros.; Release Date: 25 April 1959 (USA), May 1959 (UK); Filming Dates: 8 October 1957-early November 1957; Running Time: 72m; Colour: WarnerColor; Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Budd Boetticher; Writer: Berne Giler (based on a story by Berne Giler and Albert S. Le Vino); Executive Producer: ; Producer: Henry Blanke; Director of Photography: J. Peverell Marley; Music Composer: David Buttolph; Film Editor: Philip W. Anderson; Art Director: Robey Cooper (uncredited); Costumes: Marie Blanchard, Alexander Velcoff (both uncredited); Sound: Samuel F. Goode.
      Cast: Randolph Scott (Capt. John Hayes), Virginia Mayo (Norma Putnam), Karen Steele (Jeanie Miller), Michael Dante (Rod Miller), Andrew Duggan (Clay Putnam), Michael Pate (Mace), Wally Brown (Stubby), John Daheim (Russ (as John Day)), Walter Barnes (Willis – Stage Depot Cook).
      Synopsis: In 1864 a Union captain goes to Colorado to take over the stagecoach line and keep the flow of Western gold flowing and help the North win the Civil War.
      Comment: This was the sixth collaboration between Scott and director Boetticher. However, this time writer Burt Kennedy is missing from the mix. The screenplay treatment here is by Giler and as such the story veers much more into the traditional B-movie territory. the story sees Union soldier Scott take over the Overland stage company to ensure gold gets from California to the Union coffers. Duggan and his confederate sympathising town are out to stop him. Duggan is aided by Pate’s gunslinger. Scott is commanding, as ever, and Steele and Duggan also turn in strong performances. Pate is a stock heavy and Dante lacks depth as the romantic hero returning from the war to his bride Steele with only one arm. Mayo is Scott’s ex-flame, now married to Duggan. The pot boils nicely toward its shootout finale before the whole thing is wrapped up a little too slickly. Perhaps the weakest of the Scott/Boetticher Westerns, but still an entertaining ride.

Film Review – BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE (1958)

BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE (USA, 1958) ***
      Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Production Company: Producers-Actors Corporation / Scott-Brown Productions ; Release Date: 6 August 1958 (USA), December 1958 (UK); Filming Dates: 4 February 1958–27 February 1958; Running Time: 78m; Colour: ColumbiaColor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Budd Boetticher; Writer: Charles Lang (based on the novel “The Name’s Buchanan” by Jonas Ward); Producer: Harry Joe Brown; Associate Producer: Randolph Scott; Director of Photography: Lucien Ballard; Music Composer: Stock (Mischa Bakaleinikoff, George Duning, Heinz Roemheld, Paul Sawtell); Film Editor: Al Clark; Art Director: Robert F. Boyle; Set Decorator: Frank Tuttle; Costumes: Bucky Rous; Make-up: Al Greenway (uncredited); Sound: John P. Livadary.
      Cast: Randolph Scott (Tom Buchanan), Craig Stevens (Abe Carbo), Barry Kelley (Lew Agry), Tol Avery (Judge Simon Agry), Peter Whitney (Amos Agry), Manuel Rojas (Juan de la Vega), L.Q. Jones (Pecos Hill), Robert Anderson (Waldo Peck), Joe De Santis (Esteban Gomez), William Leslie (Roy Agry), Jennifer Holden (K.T.), Nacho Galindo (Nacho).
      Synopsis: A Texan heading back home with enough money to start his own ranch stops in the crooked town of Agry, where he’s robbed and framed for murder.
      Comment: Whilst this is one of the lesser of  Scott and Boetticher’s seven Western collaborations in the late 1950s, it is economically told and entertaining. The main problem is with the tone, which veers uneasily from tongue-in-cheek to melodrama with an eccentric cast of characters – notably the Agry brothers who run the town. Avery gives the strongest performance as the elder of the brothers, a judge looking to become senator but unable to resist holding a wealthy Mexican rancher’s son as hostage for money. Scott is tangled in the crossfire between the Agrys and looks on bemused at the absurdity surrounding him. Burt Kennedy ghosted on the script and his economic prose keeps the plot moving along nicely.

Film Review – DECISION AT SUNDOWN (1957)

DECISION AT SUNDOWN (USA, 1957) ***½
      Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corporation / Scott-Brown Productions; Release Date: 10 November 1957 (USA), January 1958 (UK); Filming Dates: 1 April 1957–24 April 1957; Running Time: 77m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Budd Boetticher; Writer: Charles Lang (based on a story by Vernon L. Fluharty); Producer: Harry Joe Brown; Associate Producer: Randolph Scott; Director of Photography: Burnett Guffey; Music Composer: Heinz Roemheld; Film Editor: Al Clark; Art Director: Robert Peterson; Set Decorator: Frank Tuttle; Costumes: Harvey Gerhard, Iva Walters (both uncredited); Make-up: Lee Greenway, Bob Mieding (both uncredited); Sound: John P. Livadary, Jean G. Valentino.
      Cast: Randolph Scott (Bart Allison), John Carroll (Tate Kimbrough), Karen Steele (Lucy Summerton), Valerie French (Ruby James), Noah Beery Jr. (Sam (as Noah Beery)), John Archer (Dr. John Storrow), Andrew Duggan (Sheriff Swede Hansen), James Westerfield (Otis), John Litel (Charles Summerton), Ray Teal (Morley Chase), Vaughn Taylor (Mr. Baldwin), Richard Deacon (Reverend Zaron), H.M. Wynant (Spanish).
      Synopsis: Scott and his sidekick arrive in the town of Sundown on the wedding day of the town boss, whom the Scott blames for his wife’s death years earlier.
      Comment: Well-made Western where all the characters are shades of grey. Scott delivers one of his best performances as an angst-ridden ex-civil war vet out for revenge on Carroll, who he believes drove his wife to suicide. Duggan is the town Sheriff, who is in Carroll’s pocket and Steele is the girl Carroll is about to marry, much to the annoyance of mistress French. The story is initially conventional in its straight-forward revenge plot, but once the siege is underway, the plot navigates several unexpected twists and turns leading the characters to re-evaluate themselves. A bold and strong script, with occasional contrivances, challenges standard Western conventions. Third of seven superior Westerns Scott and Boetticher made together.

Film Review – RIDE LONESOME (1959)

Image result for ride lonesome 1959RIDE LONESOME (USA, 1959) ****
      Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corporation / Ranown Pictures Corp.; Release Date: 15 February 1959; Filming Dates: began 14 August 1958 – 28 August 1958; Running Time: 73m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: CinemaScope; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Budd Boetticher; Writer: Burt Kennedy; Executive Producer: Harry Joe Brown; Producer: Budd Boetticher, Randolph Scott; Director of Photography: Charles Lawton Jr.; Music Composer: Heinz Roemheld; Film Editor: Jerome Thoms; Art Director: Robert Peterson; Set Decorator: Frank Tuttle; Costumes: Ed Ware; Make-up: Al Greenway, Dave Grayson, Maybelle Carey; Sound: Harry D. Mills.
       Cast: Randolph Scott (Ben Brigade), Karen Steele (Mrs. Carrie Lane), Pernell Roberts (Sam Boone), James Best (Billy John), Lee Van Cleef (Frank), James Coburn (Whit), Bennie E. Dobbins (Outlaw), Roy Jenson (Outlaw), Dyke Johnson (Charlie), Boyd ‘Red’ Morgan (Outlaw), Boyd Stockman (Indian Chief).
       Synopsis: A wanted murderer, Billy John, is captured by Ben Brigade, a bounty hunter, who intends to take him to Santa Cruz to be hanged.
       Comment: Many regard this as the best of the Scott/Boetticher Westerns and it is certainly a strong vehicle. Kennedy’s lean script presents another battle of wills with Scott playing the silent bounty hunter with an ulterior motive around his prisoner, Best. Great support from Roberts, Best, Coburn (on debut) and Steele as a party thrown together and having to fend off attacks from Indians and Best’s outlaw brother (Van Cleef). The character layers are again what makes this story stand out from the crowded 1950s arena for the Western. Scott is at his stoic best toward the end of his career.

Film Review – THE TALL T (1957)

Image result for the tall t 1957THE TALL T (USA, 1957) ****
      Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Production Company: Producers-Actors Corporation / Scott-Brown Productions; Release Date: 1 April 1957 (USA), June 1957 (UK); Filming Dates: 20 July–8 August 1956; Running Time: 78m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Budd Boetticher; Writer: Burt Kennedy (based on the story “The Captive” by Elmore Leonard); Producer: Harry Joe Brown; Associate Producer: Randolph Scott; Director of Photography: Charles Lawton Jr.; Music Composer: Heinz Roemheld; Film Editor: Al Clark; Casting Director: Art Director: George Brooks; Set Decorator: Frank Tuttle.
      Cast: Randolph Scott (Pat Brennan), Richard Boone (Frank Usher), Maureen O’Sullivan (Doretta Mims), Arthur Hunnicutt (Ed Rintoon), Skip Homeier (Billy Jack), Henry Silva (Chink), John Hubbard (Willard Mims), Robert Burton (Tenvoorde), Robert Anderson (Jace), Dick Johnstone (Townsman), Ann Kunde (Townswoman), Christopher Olsen (Jeff), Fred Sherman (Hank Parker).
      Synopsis: Having lost his horse in a bet, Pat Brennan hitches a ride with a stagecoach carrying newlyweds, Willard and Doretta Mims. At the next station the coach and its passengers fall into the hands of a trio of outlaws headed by a man named Usher.
      Comment: A strong Western typical of the output from Scott and director Boetticher. The humour of the story’s first act gives way to psychological drama once Scott and O’Sullivan are taken hostage by Boone, Silva and Homeier. What sets this tale apart from many other Westerns with similar themes is the complexity of the chief villain, Boone and the empathy he builds with Scott despite the prisoner/captor relationship. This creates an additional edge to the drama and the inevitable showdown finale. Tightly scripted by Kennedy from a story by Elmore Leonard (the first adaptation of his work) and set in a sparse rocky landscape, this is one the strongest entries in Scott’s filmography.

Film Review – COMANCHE STATION (1960)

Randolph Scott and Nancy Gates in Comanche Station (1960)COMANCHE STATION (USA, 1960) ***½
      Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Production Company: Ranown Pictures Corp.; Release Date: 31 January 1960 (UK), 16 February 1960 (USA); Filming Dates: 10 June 1959–26 June 1959; Running Time: 74m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: CinemaScope; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Budd Boetticher; Writer: Burt Kennedy; Executive Producer: Harry Joe Brown; Producer: Budd Boetticher; Director of Photography: Charles Lawton Jr.; Music Composer: Mischa Bakaleinikoff (uncredited); Film Editor: Edwin H. Bryant; Art Director: Carl Anderson; Set Decorator: Frank Tuttle; Sound: George Cooper, John P. Livadary.
      Cast: Randolph Scott (Jefferson Cody), Nancy Gates (Nancy Lowe), Claude Akins (Ben Lane), Skip Homeier (Frank), Richard Rust (Dobie), Rand Brooks (Station Man), Dyke Johnson (John Lowe),  P. Holland (Lowe Boy (uncredited)), Foster Hood (Comanche Lance Bearer (uncredited)), Joe Molina (Comanche Chief (uncredited)), Vincent St. Cyr (Warrior (uncredited)).
      Synopsis: A man saves a woman who had been kidnapped by Comanches, then struggles to get both of them home alive.
      Comment: The final collaboration between director Boetticher, star Scott and their frequent writer Kennedy. It is a taut, lean story that focuses on a battle of wills between a loner who rescues Gates from her Indian captors in order to return her to her husband and Akins’ gang, who aim to take her from Scott to claim the reward. Frequent bursts of action intersperse with Scott and Akins’ verbal jousts. Typically well-made with a solid cast and great locations well captured by Lawton’s widescreen photography.
      Notes:  Scott decided to retire after this one, but two years later he was talked out of retirement by Sam Peckinpah for RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962). After that film, Scott retired for good.

Film Review – SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (1956)

Movie Posters:Western, Seven Men from Now (Warner Brothers, 1956). Half Sheet (22" X 28").
Western.. ...SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (USA, 1956) ****
      Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Production Company: Batjac Productions; Release Date: 15 July 1956; Filming Dates: late September–late October 1955; Running Time: 78m; Colour: WarnerColor; Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Budd Boetticher; Writer: Burt Kennedy; Producer: Andrew V. McLaglen, Robert E. Morrison; Director of Photography: William H. Clothier; Music Composer: Henry Vars; Film Editor: Everett Sutherland; Art Director: A. Leslie Thomas; Set Decorator: Edward G. Boyle; Costumes: Rudy Harrington, Edward Sebesta, Carl Walker; Make-up: Web Overlander, Norman Pringle; Sound: Earl Crain Jr.
      Cast: Randolph Scott (Ben Stride), Gail Russell (Annie Greer), Lee Marvin (Bill Masters), Walter Reed (John Greer), John Larch (Payte Bodeen), Don ‘Red’ Barry (Clete), Fred Graham (Henchman), John Beradino (Clint), John Phillips (Jed), Chuck Roberson (Mason), Stuart Whitman (Cavalry Lt. Collins), Pamela Duncan (Señorita Nellie), Steve Mitchell (Fowler), Cliff Lyons (Henchman), Fred Sherman (The Prospector).
      Synopsis: Ex-sheriff Ben Stride tracks the seven men who held up a Wells Fargo office and killed his wife.
      Comment: Tightly directed Western with Scott in fine form as the brooding ex-sheriff hunting down those responsible for the death of his wife during a robbery. Marvin is also excellent as a chancer looking to profit. The bleakness of the subject matter is played out through a desert track and stormy weather. The script is lean and efficient and Boetticher keeps the piece moving at a good pace. Scenic photography and the smitten Russell add to the ingredients, making this one of the finest of the star and directors’ collaborations.

Film Review – TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (1970)

Image result for two mules for sister sara 1970TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (USA, 1970) ***
      Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), Rank Film Distributors (UK); Production Company: The Malpaso Company / Sanen Productions; Release Date: 28 May 1970 (USA), 19 July 1970 (UK); Filming Dates: 3 February 1969 – mid-May 1969; Running Time: 114m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: PG – contains strong violence and sexual threat.
      Director: Don Siegel; Writer: Albert Maltz (based on a story by  Budd Boetticher); Producer: Carroll Case, Martin Rackin; Director of Photography: Gabriel Figueroa; Music Composer: Ennio Morricone; Music Supervisor: Stanley Wilson; Film Editor: Robert F. Shugrue; Art Director: José Rodríguez Granada; Set Decorator: Pablo Galván; Costumes: Carlos Chávez, Helen Colvig; Make-up: Margarita Ortega, Frank Westmore; Sound: Jesús González Gancy, Ronald Pierce, Waldon O. Watson; Special Effects: Frank Brendel, León Ortega.
      Cast: Shirley MacLaine (Sara), Clint Eastwood (Hogan), Manolo Fábregas (Colonel Beltran), Alberto Morin (General LeClaire), Armando Silvestre (1st American), John Kelly (2nd American), David Povall (Juan), Ada Carrasco (Juan’s Mother), Pancho Córdova (Juan’s Father), José Chávez (Horacio), Pedro Galván, José Ángel Espinosa ‘Ferrusquilla’ (French Officer), Enrique Lucero (3rd American), Aurora Muñoz (Sara’s Friend), Xavier Marc (Yaqui Chief), Hortensia Santoveña (1st Woman in the Night), Rosa Furman (2nd Woman in the Night), José Torvay (Mexican Guerrilla), Margarito Luna (Mexican Guerrilla), Xavier Massé.
      Synopsis: A nun is rescued from three cowboys by a stranger who is on his way to do some reconnaissance, for a future mission to capture a French fort. Inevitably the two become good friends but the nun has a secret.
      Comment: A handsome low-key Western that coasts on the interactions between the two stars in a riff on THE AFRICAN QUEEN. MacLaine is sassy and funny as the nun and Eastwood adds a level of humour to his stranger persona carried forward from the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns of the mid-1960s. Don Siegel directs the story efficiently and the film is colourfully photographed on location in Mexico. Ennio Morricone’s score is witty and recalls his scores for Leone. Ultimately, this is a character-led story and as such the minimal plot does little to engage. There is a memorable sequence where MacLaine has to help remove an Indian arrow from Eastwood’s shoulder and another involving the blowing-up of a railway bridge. The result, however, is a diverting entertainment that coasts on the charisma of its two stars and also feels a little disposable.
      Notes: The second film collaboration between director Don Siegel and star Clint Eastwood.

Film Review – SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (1956)

Image result for seven men from nowSeven Men from Now (1956; USA; Colour; 78m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Budd Boetticher; w. Burt Kennedy; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Henry Vars.  Cast: Randolph Scott, Gail Russell, Lee Marvin, Walter Reed, John Larch, Don ‘Red’ Barry, Fred Graham, John Beradino, John Phillips, Chuck Roberson, Stuart Whitman, Pamela Duncan. Ex-sheriff Ben Stride tracks the seven men who held up a Wells Fargo office and killed his wife. Tightly directed Western with Scott in fine form as the brooding ex-sheriff and Marvin also excellent as a chancer looking to profit. Scenic photography and the smitten Russell add to the ingredients, making this one of the finest of the star and directors’ collaborations. [PG]